Entertainment Hive 2020

Double the passion in Naturally

By Honey B

Nice girl Emma Stokes couldn't imagine being anywhere else other than working with Restless Dance Theatre's senior ensemble on passionate double bill Naturally. Stokes has been guiding the 27 to 54 year old artists as they explore their animalistic creativity in What's A Nice Girl Like You Doing In A Place Like This? Adelaide-based Restless is Australia's multi-award winning company working with artists with and without disability. "There is something really beautiful about working with these performers and with their lack of inhibition, especially on this topic of sexuality and disability,'' Stokes says. "They have been really honest and really raw as they have told me their stories. "I've tried to make a platform or a forum where they can tell these stories in a safe space. "They are really amazing because they don't have a lot of fear about putting themselves out there and telling people how they are actually feeling.'' Stokes, who is 29, says she tried to think of an easy way to talk to these mostly older dancers about a pretty "full-on'' topic. "When we first started I happened to watch a talk about the sexuality of fireflies and then I started to look at clips of animals and mating dances. "We came across these Birds of Paradise and they were just getting their freak on and it was absolutely amazing. "We watched these cool and funky movements which we tried to mimic and thought about being on a dance floor at a club and dancing like one of these birds to get attraction. "Just imagine if you could show off like that!'' That's where the highly-talented set and costume designer Ailsa Paterson came to the party and Stokes says she had designed a set that's much like a nest. "The stage has this nest structure and it's a bit like a bower bird nest with this ring around it and it looks like it has a doorway. Sometimes the set can also mimic a bird cage. "There's just this animalistic rawness in the show, but also true stories with text that are used in the show.'' Along with the rawness, there are also many poignant moments in the piece and Stokes highlights two such moments, Shining Moment and Pillow Talk. "We were talking about a feeling of love and a feeling of elation when you are super happy with someone and other things that can give you that feeling in life. "I wanted the performers to imagine that there was only one sunray in the world and it was on them and the rest of the world was dark. We use a love heart light to light up people's faces and it's this gorgeous Shining Moment. "Pillow Talk is also a wonderful moment as two dancers perform with a pillow between their heads. "When I was talking with the ensemble a lot of them never lay beside anyone going to sleep anymore or never. "A lot want a long term partner and we started talking about what you say before you go to sleep - it's an intimate moment.'' Naturally is a double bill with Restless Dance Theatre's youth ensemble and Stokes is amazed at how well the two dance pieces mirror each other. "Michelle Ryan is the artistic director of Restless Dance Theatre and she is directing the youth ensemble in which the dancers are aged 15 to 26. "They are that bit younger and their show Touched is more about friendship, relationships and attraction. "It's a younger person's view  and it's quite sweet and parts feel a bit more anxious or nervous than you feel with the senior ensemble. "The senior ensemble have lived it before and it's just an older person's view - both of these pieces are so beautiful, honest and they complement each other quite beautifully.'' Restless Dance Theatre's Naturally featuring Touched and What's A Nice Girl Like You Doing In A Place Like This?, Odeon Theatre, Norwood, 13 to 21 November. Bookings: www.trybooking.co/145096 or bookings@restlessdance.org or 8212 8495
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